Gender-neutral housing is now an option at 50 or so colleges and universities across the nation. A step beyond gender-integrated dorms, floors, and bathrooms, gender-blind policies now allow students to choose roommates of either gender. While certainly not a landslide trend (only 1-3% of students on these campuses choose an opposite-sex roommate), the LA Times reports today that its the next step on the integration path.
The first assumption behind this movement is that college students are adults. “College students are adults,” says the head of the National Student Genderblind Campaign. “They have every single right to choose the person they feel most comfortable living with.” Plenty of research voices, including our own Chap Clark, have doubts about how adult college students really are. Call them late adolescents or emerging adults, but full-on adults? Not many of them.
The other assumption is that we are in a post-gender world. While I dont want to open up wild debate about that one, I think I can stand with scripture, biology, and sociology to say that post-gender doesnt seem to be Gods ideal. Im all for revisiting traditional gender roles, but not obliterating gender altogether. Because, well, we cant.
Debates aside, this could be the environment our high school seniors will be swimming in if theyre headed off to college next year. In light of that, what kinds of conversations should we be having with them now about how to engage choices like gender-blind rooming arrangements? What ideas do you have for creating dialogue and discernment around these issues? How will you equip them with more than thats just wrong so they know how to have a thoughtful conversation with someone when the opportunity is presented? These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking ourselves in youth ministry.
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